Monday, March 28, 2011

Blackberry with Scotch Cheesecake

Sometimes looking at and baking a recipe can make me feel old. Like this one, for example. I've made it before, and have specific memories associated with making it--when I was a graduate student at UC Davis. In the 80s. I remember this cheesecake being good (my note: "xtra yummy!!")--kind of like my mom's, with the sour cream topping. And I remember buying a bottle of Drambuie to make it with, and discovering that Sami and I both really liked Drambuie.

Well, here it is 2011 and all, and I'm trying out the recipe again--this time with French ingredients and without Drambuie. I considered buying a bottle, but when I went out shopping, the liquor store that sells it was closed for lunch. I considered that A Sign that I probably didn't need to spend 22 Euros for 2-1/2 tablespoons of booze. I'm sure Sami would think it's bad enough that I used some of our precious bourbon.

One of the good and annoying things about this cheesecake is the crust. Good because it's a buttery, crunchy shortbread crust that really sets off the blackberry filling nicely. Annoying because the butter melts and leaks and makes the oven smoke. Maida warned me. I underlined that warning for my future self. And you'll notice that I did wrap my cheesecake pan in foil. I still had a smoky oven. Oh, well. Anyway, wrap your cheesecake pan really well and consider putting it on a lined baking sheet just in case.

The ingredients. I served this to another Franco-American family, and we had a long discussion about the proper cream cheese to use in cheesecake. My friend Amy, who has lived here for more than 15 years, claims that St. Moret shouldn't be a substitute for cream cheese. I've had good luck with it so far, though--except with cream cheese frosting. There's another product called Kiri that works better, but it comes in tiny foil-wrapped squares, and I can't be bothered. And I believe I've mentioned that the real Philadelphia is available and expensive. On the same shopping trip that saved me 22 Euros on the Drambuie, I was saved at least 15 Euros on cream cheese because the cheese shop was closed. I should probably shop more on off hours.

But I went upscale with my cheesecake anyway. See the black specks? I used vanilla bean instead of extract. I got a really good deal on vanilla beans a few weeks back.

And I have to say that the tiny frozen wild blackberries they sell here are really great--not as sour/bitter as some of the berries you might get in the States. Fortunately, the frozen food store was open. Otherwise this would have been a "mixed-red-fruit" cheesecake, which would probably have been good as well.

So to summarize this cheesecake: you've got creamy and crunchy. You have buttery and sweet and tart and rich. No matter how and where you source your ingredients, this is a cheesecake worth making.

Here's the recipe. I highly recommend making this the day before you want to eat it.

Blackberry with Scotch Cheesecake

1 c. (4 oz.) sifted flour
1/4 c. (1.75 oz.) sugar
Generous pinch salt (it's not in the original recipe, but I like a bit of salt in my shortbread)
1/2 c. (4 oz.) cold butter

Heat the oven to 375. In a food processor or just a regular bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter to form very small crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan and press down on them to make an even bottom crust. Wrap the bottom of the springform with a double layer of aluminum foil. Consider putting the springform on a foil-lined baking sheet as well. Bake the crust for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown. While the crust is baking, make the filling.

19 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I imagine that some light cream cheese would work here)
1 t. vanilla
2-1/2 T. (1.25 oz.) Drambuie or other whiskey
1/2 t. cinnamon
Grated rind of 1 (organic) lemon or 1/2 (organic) orange
3/4 c. (5 oz.) sugar
3 large eggs
1 T. (0.5 oz.) lemon juice
2 c. (8 oz.) frozen blackberries

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cheese until soft and smooth. Beat in the vanilla, booze, cinnamon, and lemon/orange rind just until mixed, then add the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Mix in the lemon juice.
Carefully butter the sides of the springform: I just ran a stick of butter around the warm pan. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust. Then sprinkle the blackberries over that, pushing down on them so that they are covered. Full disclosure: I didn't push mine down far enough, and they didn't work their way into the cake as they probably should have. Do as Maida says, not as I do.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the sides have puffed and browned a bit. Take the cake out of the oven and let sit for 20 minutes (leave the oven on). Make the topping while the cake waits.

2 c. (16 oz.) sour cream (in my case, crème fraîche legère)
1-2 T. sugar (Maida calls for 1 T; for a change, I think a bit more is nice)
1 t. vanilla

Whisk these ingredients together. When the cake has finished its rest, spread the sour cream mixture over it and return it to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil, and let the cake cool completely. Maida wants you to take the sides off the springform before you put the cake in the fridge. I didn't and it was fine.
In any case, let the cake chill at least 4 hours before serving. If you're daring, you can try to slip the cake off the springform bottom; if not, no one will care after they've had a bite of this.

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